Oregon City Arta Potties triple to 6 public portable toilets
Local public-safety advocates are recognizing Oregon City as a leader in giving homeless people some dignity for something that most of us take for granted — to relieve themselves with privacy.
After the successful launch of the city's Arta Potties program in September 2017 with locations under the Arch Bridge and in the Municipal Parking Lot, last month the city tripled its number of public portable toilets.
Four more Arta Potties were donated by the folks who started the program in Salem, so Oregon City added two by Interstate 205 overpasses (one near the river at John Storm Park and one on Main Street), one on John Adams near Father's Heart Street Ministry, and one on the hill on Beavercreek Road near the Oregon City Outlet Store.
"The gal that I'd been in contact with in Salem [Rebecca Maitland Courtney] felt like she'd struggled long enough to get support in Salem, and she knew that the city of Oregon City was supportive of the program," said Mike Day, the Oregon City police officer who's the official liaison to the local homeless population.
Arta Potties organizer Rebecca Maitland Courtney said Oregon City provides a good example to her hometown of Salem (where she encountered lots of red tape installing portable toilets) as to how to support the local homeless population.
"It's the tale of two cities: Oregon City is succeeding with the program due to police and city involvement," Maitland Courtney said. "They simply do not place the burden of public health solutions solely on the public. Working in collaboration is the only way to succeed."
One Arta Potty will remain in Salem at its original location, the First Congregational United Church of Christ, but four that were slated for public locations in Salem are now in Oregon City.
"They won't help a soul remaining in storage," Maitland Courtney said.
Day recently conducted a questionnaire to help determine the level of support for the Arta Potties program in downtown Oregon City.
"I recently surveyed 40 people in a walk around downtown businesses, to see if we've gotten an improvement in downtown urination and defecation, and we've seen a definite improvement," Day said.
According to the survey results, 95 percent of people associated with downtown businesses support the Arta Potties program generally, and 73 percent of the people reported a decrease in feces/urine found outside during the past year compared to previous years.
Day said that other cities could still recognize the need for access to restrooms 24 hours a day, specifically for the homeless population who may not have access to restrooms otherwise.
"It's going to take an understanding that for a relatively low cost you can see a tremendous impact by putting out these portable restrooms, as shown by the survey results," Day said.
Trent Clinkscales, the owner of Clinkscales Portable Toilets and Septic Service in Molalla, is the main contractor working for the city on maintaining the service. Compared to building brick-and-mortar bathrooms, portable toilets are much more affordable for municipalities.
Oregon City purchased its ADA-accessible portable toilet for $2,053, and the monthly service cost for all six restrooms is less than $700.